Despite recent advances with manmade insulation, where keeping warm is concerned, down still rules the roost on all fronts... well nearly all. Down’s Achilles heel is, and always has been, how it copes with getting wet, and how to get it dry again. Luckily if you follow our ‘Down Dos & Don’ts’, washing and drying your jacket won’t leave you spitting feathers.
The Down Don’ts
- Don’t get your jacket wet if you can help it – You can always successfully dry down, however, repeatedly wetting and drying your jacket will reduce its thermal performance over time.
- Don’t use standard detergents to wash down – Most down jackets have a water repellent treatment on the outside to help keep the down dry. Washing with a standard detergent will breakdown this treatment.
- Don’t wring-out, spin dry, or compress wet down – Squashing wet down causes the fibres to clump together leading to reduced thermal properties once dry.
The Down Dos
- Always spot clean if possible – Avoiding saturating your whole jacket will pay dividends in the long run.
- Always wash down with an appropriate cleaner – Products like Down Wash by Nikwax won’t harm your jacket or strip away its water repellent treatment.
- Always allow down to drip dry and then air dry first – This is the best way to get most of the water out of the jacket. If the item is totally saturated (after washing for example) drip drying with it laying flat on a towel or horizontal airing rack will help avoid clumping.
- Always tumble dry thoroughly – Next tumble dry the garment until its full loft (puffiness) has returned.
- Always agitate when tumble drying – Using dryer balls in the tumble dryer helps to break up any clumps of down to better return loft. A simple alternative to dryer balls is to tie tennis balls or a light soft shoe inside a pillow case.
- Always reproof your jacket if it stops ‘beading-off’ water – To test this sprinkle a little water on your jacket. It should sit as a bead on the surface rather than soaking in. If the water soaks in reproof your jacket with a product like TX Direct Spray-on by Nikwax.
- Always follow the care label and instructions when washing and drying
Follow these few simple rules and your jacket will continue keeping you cosy for many years to come. If, however, you don’t feel confident to tackle this yourself there are companies that specialise in cleaning down jackets. It might cost more, but most do a cracking job and you’ll avoid getting in a flap.